Soto Family - Maria Relief

My name is Michael Mazur and I am creating this campaign on behalf of my dear friend and colleague, Neftali Soto, whose family suffered devastating losses during hurricane Maria.

I first met Neftali back in 2010 when I showed up in his community looking for information on a local legend named Toño Bicicleta with the desire to create a documentary film. The barrios of Lares are traditionally closed communities, so our first goal was to establish what’s known as a “fixer” in the documentary world. This is essentially a local man or woman who acts as a conduit between the outsiders (us) and the local community. At the time I could offer him no money, barely spoke 10 words of Spanish, and was asking him to risk his reputation and community standing (a supremely important “currency” in this part of the world) on a random Gringo who showed up on his front porch one summer afternoon asking for help.

Neftali and I during a shoot

Neftali with his niece and daughter

Over the years, few people have shown me the form of kindness and acceptance that I’ve received from Neftali and his family. Like many Latin American families, the Sotos live in a multi-generational home in their local Lares barrio named Mirasol. Neftali makes the lion share of his income from farming but also owned a local bar for many years. He and his wife, Brenda, work as a team harvesting their plantains and preparing them to sell on a daily basis. Every time we went to the area to shoot, abuela Lydia would cook us an incredible meal (regardless of the time of day we showed up) and abuelo Franco would make us laugh while we ate. They even turned their yard into an ultra low budget studio for our documentary recreations. It was always a family effort and whatever we were doing I remember that we were always laughing and smiling while we did it.

Neftali's son, Jaime, helping us recreate a dramatic scene for the documentary.

Neftali helping me conduct an interview in Spanish

Neftali offering some Lareño history for the documentary. You can also see what the event space looked like before the storm. Neftali hand-made the tile mural of The Three Kings you see on the floor.

With what little money we were able to raise to pay Neftali for his considerable sacrifice of time and effort, he constructed a new building on his property to be used as a local gathering spot for parties, fundraisers, sporting events, etc… When I say “constructed”, I mean that he and his son Jaime literally built this new building with their own hands. It is hard to imagine a man and a family that better exemplifies hard work and self-sustainability. These are honorable, hard-working, kind-hearted people who would never ask anyone else for help. That is why I am here posting on their behalf.

The paradise before the storm.

Hurricane Maria has decimated their home, their property, their event space, and nearly 100% of their crops, leaving them with almost no tangible source of income for up to a year. I am sharing this story with my community in the hopes that we can help ameliorate the pain and suffering of this wonderful group of people.

A general view of the property damage

Flooding inside the house

Near-total destruction

Destruction of their garden and event space

Near total destruction of their property

Severe damage to the event space

The financial goal that I’ve set is based on the following factors…

1. Money to buy food, water, and fuel in the immediate future.
2. Money to purchase supplies and building materials to reconstruct their home and property.
3. Money to rebuild the event space (which will serve as their only source of income for the foreseeable future).
4. Money to hire local workers to help them clear the fields and start anew on their crops.
5. Money to purchase needed seeds and other organic planting materials.

Neftali and his family had absolutely no reason to help me when I first knocked on their door. They decided to take a chance on me and have become some of my dearest friends. I have experienced privilege in many ways throughout my life. I’m hoping that the communities of means that helped raise me will also help repay the kindness that a family of much lesser means has shown to me. Right now the need in the world is great. There are so many worthwhile causes that need our support. I am hoping you can help, in any small way, so that this family can rebuild their world.

“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” - Dr Seuss

Thank you!

  • Davy Lim 
    • $20 
    • 49 mos
  • Kathleen Chase 
    • $100 
    • 49 mos
  • Christine Taylor 
    • $25 
    • 49 mos
  • William Kerber 
    • $50 
    • 49 mos
  • Karen Vealey 
    • $20 
    • 49 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Michael Mazur 
Lares, PR
Jaime Soto 
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